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As you might already know, I am a very frugal person.
Sometimes it can be a good thing because I’m able to save a lot of money and don’t make huge financial mistakes on a regular basis.
However, in some cases, what seems normal to me might be a total shock to other people.
They either look puzzled when I tell them about my spending habits or insist I need to change what I do.
In this post, I will document the five money-related facts about me that usually leave people speechless, confused, or amused.
1. I didn’t have a smart-phone until 26.
I got my first cell phone when I was a freshman in college.
It was a free basic Nokia that came with a $25 prepaid data plan. The main purpose of the phone at the time was to wake me up in the morning (aka an alarming clock).
It would cost me 10 cents a minute for a call or a text message, so I tried my very best not to use the phone.
I was also hesitant to give my phone number to too many people since I was afraid they would give me some random calls which I would have to pick up and waste my minutes.
When I did give my phone number to someone, I told them to call me only if it was really important.
They could email me or message me on AOL (yes, it was ages ago) if they had something to talk to me about.
It came as no surprise that I would get maybe one phone call I month. I remember spending at most $100 on data a year. And I was happy with that arrangement.
I later discovered Google Voice and set up a free number. Whenever someone called me on my phone, I would hang up and call them back using Google Voice. My phone bill was cut by half. I spent less than $50 a year on data.
I have to admit it was a bit of a nuisance to me and to other people not being able to get connected on the phone right away.
But I was willing to put up with it and got used to it since it saved me at least $300/year ($30/month) by not joining any monthly plan.
An unintended consequence of being loyal to a Nokia was that I didn’t know how to use a smartphone until I was 26 (2013). It was a running joke in my family.
I also thought it was kind of funny, but it didn’t bother me enough for me to drop $200 on a smart phone until years later.
2. I got my first expensive monthly phone plan because of a boy.
Yes, you read that right. I still feel embarrassed typing this, but it’s true. I have never told Mr. FAF about this. Even if Mr. FAF knew about it, I don’t think he would care. He’s not the jealous type.
And this is even more mortifying. I paid $80/month for that monthly plan for three reasons.
First, I used my prepaid data plan to talk to him, but it was getting expensive. I thought to myself that if we already talked so much, maybe I should just get a monthly plan that might be expensive but will save me money in the long run (I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking that too).
Second, the monthly plan was an investment in romance (with absolutely no monetary return, which I later realized).
Third, I didn’t want to hang up on him and use Google Voice to call him back. It just wasn’t romantic.
To make a long story short, we parted ways about two months after I got the $80 monthly data plan. I was a poor grad student at the time, so $80 was roughly half of my monthly food expenses.
The painful thing is that I waited for another 6 months to cancel the plan because I thought I needed to use it to call my friends and vented to them about what had happened.
In total, I paid $480 for 6 months of data that I barely used and $250 for early cancellation of the two-year contract.
The phone company rep was in shock when I saw how many minutes I hadn’t used. $730 for a monthly plan, a failed dating experience, and a big money lesson. Romance (or the lack thereof) does cost money sometimes.
3. I wear Mr. FAF’s boxers at home.
Mr. FAF has some extremely comfortable and colorful Hanes boxers that look like shorts. They are made from cotton, comfortable, and light. I didn’t realize that until two years ago when it was hot outside, and I ran out of clean shorts to wear at home (laundry day).
I could have gone out to buy more shorts, but I didn’t want to spend the money. A light bulb went off in my head. I rushed to Mr. FAF’s drawer and tried on his boxer.
It was a huge discovery for me. From that point one, I took some of Mr. FAF’s comfy boxers and put them in my wardrobe. I walk around happily in those boxers at home in the summer until I have to take out the trash and feel too lazy to change.
Every time that happens, I have to make sure my neighbors are not hanging outside. I don’t want them to find out that I wear my husband’s underwear as shorts.
It works out well most of the time. I take out the trash and dart back to our house. No one notices anything (or so I thought).
However, there were instances when some of my neighbors would come out of no where and strike a conversation. I had no choice but to talk to them, hoping they wouldn’t notice anything unusual about my outfit.
Sometimes I did notice some stares but quickly made an excuse to go home. Now I try to take out the trash when it’s dark outside, so no one can really see what I’m wearing.
4. The $1 freezer meal used to be my staple.
You know those unhealthy $1 freezer meal boxes at the grocery stores? They used to be my stable for months when I was in graduate school. I wasn’t and still am not good at cooking.
At that time, money was tight, and I didn’t want to eat out. Instant noodles weren’t really a healthy option for daily meals.
I thought to myself at least the freezer meal has some meat and veggies. The portion was small and didn’t fill me up, so I just ate it with white rice.
I later found out that the barbecue meat loaf was processed scrap meat, and the veggies were too little to be healthy. I haven’t had those meals in more than five years.
5. I said no to a lot of dinner and lunch invites with friends to save money.
I used to say no to 90% of all the invites to dinner or lunch. I didn’t want to use the “to save money” reason all the time, so I just told them I was busy or suggested inexpensive or free activities instead. I think my friends figured this out eventually.
Most of my friends found joy in eating delicious food at restaurants, so the idea of going for a walk at the grocery store, chatting over a drink, or cooking at home didn’t appeal to them.
When I did have to eat out with friends, I would think about getting appetizers or the cheapest meal on the menu. My friends weren’t so thrilled about it and suggested I get the main course instead, so I did.
I would get water instead of an iced tea, a coke, a bubble tea, or a milkshake like they did. Sometimes it made me feel awkward because I was drinking something totally different from them: plain water.
After a meal, some of them would suggest getting pastry, which was an extra $3-4 on top of dinner. I just wanted to tell them I didn’t want the pastry but felt obligated to get it to avoid being a wet blanket.
During my frugal journey, I have made a lot of financial mistakes and done a lot of weird things to save money. The five facts mentioned above always make me feel embarrassed whenever I think about them.
I’m proud of some of them (i.e. using free Google Voice service), regret some (i.e. the $80 monthly data plan), and still feel conflicted about some (i.e. eating out and friendships).
However, I’m glad those days are over now that I have a stable job and don’t have to pinch pennies every day. I can also breathe more easily when I think about spending a couple of dollars on entertainment.
I also have a husband who can cook good food for me every day, so I don’t need to revert to those cheap and unhealthy freezer meals.
Over all, I can only learn from such embarrassing facts and make sure I’m proud of whatever financial decisions that I make for myself and my family.